Recipe for a Narrative Form

A story can take on many forms.
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Even though there are many types of thesis-driven essays that are quite beneficial for students of all ages, the narrative essay allows students to draw from their own experiences in a creative and productive way. Even though you have a good deal of freedom when constructing a narrative essay, there is a specific form that's sure to foster a successful one.

1 First Person

At the core of a successful narrative essay is a meaningful and engaging story that happened to either you or someone you know well. In this case, a first-person voice is acceptable. That doesn’t mean it’s mandatory or should be abused. If your focus story happened to you, using “I” is beneficial. It inserts the reader into your perspective. It doesn’t mean your language can divert too far from the formal academic voice.

2 Personal Choice

Even though it may seem that an accident will make a fine story for a narrative focus, the element of personal choice must be present in a driving story. For example, simply explaining how someone crashed into your parked car doesn’t address your personal choice in the matter. Despite this, if you outline that you decided to park in the middle of an intersection, the reader is aware of your choices and gains an insight into who you are, who you were and how the accident changed your perspective.

3 Introduction

In the same way that a piece of literature has a beginning that introduces settings, characters and the central conflict, so will your narrative essay. For example, if your narrative essay tells the story of when your significant other graduated from college, begin the essay by introducing where the graduation took place and who was involved. If your reader doesn’t have proper bearings in terms of what year your story took place, what the landscape was like or who the people involved were, they won’t be able to engage in the story.

4 Conflict

At the center of any valuable narrative is a driving and developed central conflict. Spend ample time, several paragraphs, presenting, discussing and interpreting the central conflict of your story. The central conflict is the main point of your story, and the outcome of the conflict will reveal much about who you are and what you believe in. For example, if your narrative essay is about a family dinner where you fought with your mother, the index of the argument will be the central conflict, and how it’s resolved will be revealing of both you and your mother.

Jake Shore is an award-winning Brooklyn-based playwright, published short story writer and professor at Wagner College. His short fiction has appeared in many publications including Litro Magazine, one of London's leading literary magazines. Shore earned his MFA in creative writing from Goddard College.